As I looked through vacation pictures recently, I realized I was doing it again. My mind, my own worst critic, judging every photo with such negativity, "I look fat in that picture...it's a great photo of everyone else, but I don't like how I look...my hair looks awful in these..." and so it went on. I've done it for years, always more critical with myself in my own thoughts and internal dialogue than I would ever be with someone else.
But last week, I heard those words from the back seat of the van, and realized the impact of all the relentless negative critiques on myself. Kids were flipping through camera photos we had just taken at the beach. My adorable, sweet child voiced these powerful words, "I don't think I like how I look in these pictures." Gulp. Crushing blow to my spirit. Guilt now added to the other turmoil that spun wild in my thoughts. They'd heard those words from me, as I judged myself so harshly, now they were learning to do the same.
Many times we speak what we have heard through the years or believe to be true about ourselves, simply because we have listened to the wrong voices. We live in a society that puts high value on the external. Images of false beauty are everywhere we look. Air brushed models and Barbie doll figures become the ideal we somehow feel we must strive towards.
We continue to battle on, never feeling like we measure up. The words we’ve heard through time have sent wounds to our hearts, “you need to do better,” “you might want to lose a little weight,” “you’re not quite good enough.” Words, planted deeply into our souls like ugly weeds, attempting to spread, choking out the good, increasingly difficult to uproot. We water them by repeating their hurtful lies and agreeing with the barrage of internal chatter: “I’m not good enough,” “I’m a failure,” “I’ll never measure up.” And through time, we believe those very words to be true, simply because we’ve chosen to listen and agree.
Negative self-talk might seem rather harmless. Some may even disguise it under a false sense of humility. But hurtful words spoken inward will affect your deepest soul and spirit. They will send you spiraling downward when you’re least aware, leading you to a never ending conflict with comparison, tempting you towards jealousy, breeding insecurity. Our words are so powerful, those we speak outward to others, and those we speak inward to ourselves. Words matter.
Enough already. I'm done with it. It is what it is. Wrinkles, check. Bad hair days, double check. Put on a few pounds, yes, another check. But really, do those flaws that seem to glare at us from a photo or the mirror dictate who we are, as a person? Should they be allowed to be the indicators of real beauty that shine out - in life? Of course not. And I'd be the first to remind someone else of that.
It's time to remind myself. Time to stop comparing with the image of beauty the world sets before us. Time to stop talking like the eternal self-critic. Time to let go of the over-emphasis on the number thing with the bathroom scale. Those things were never intended to be the determining factors of our worth.
Beauty is not based around a number on the scale or how you feel you measure up compared to the airbrushed, photo-edited model. You are more than that. Much more.
True beauty is lasting, influential, inspiring, giving, caring, life-breathing - never defined by only the externals. Your worth rests firmly in the fact that you were created and designed by an Amazing God, who loves you and has great purpose for your life. Stop the negative self talk and choose to move forward, believing the truth of what God says about you. Live healthy, live active, live free, and let your beautiful self shine first from the inside. There's much freedom there.
He whispers over you today, "You are beautiful, you are amazing, you have design, you have purpose, you are valuable..." and so much more.
Oh, and one more thing…make sure to tell your daughter.
“Be careful how you think, your life is shaped by your thoughts.” Proverbs 4:23
“People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7
“The tongue has the power of life and death.” Proverbs 18:21
Debbie McDaniel is a pastor's wife, mom to three amazing kids and a few too many pets, dramatist and writer. She has a heart to communicate God's hope though the everyday moments of life - the good, the bad, the ugly, and the ones that take your breath away. A lover of every sunrise, forever needy of His grace, this Texas girl finds joy in the simple gift of each new day. Debbie invites you to join her at www.freshdayahead.com, and Facebook and Twitter.